Dundee, Scotland-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Fraser Stewart started his solo project CONCEPT CAR way back in 2007/2008, although due to commitments to other bands and projects he’s been involved in over the years, it never progressed beyond the bedroom demo stage.
“When my previous band, Fat Goth called it a day in 2017 I thought it would be fun to resurrect Concept Car and see what I could do with it. By that time I had started acquiring all the necessary bits and pieces for a home studio setup and my first offerings were the results of me gradually getting to grips with all the programs and technology at my disposal.” – says Fraser.
Finally in 2020 the first ‘proper’ Concept Car release appeared in the shape of the ‘Luxury Interior EP’, which the excellent folk at Make That A Take Records put out. Since then Fraser has been focusing on producing more Concept Car music and he’s delighted to be working with Make That A Take again with his forthcoming, self-titled debut album, which will be available on the 6th August as a digital download and also as a limited edition cassette.
Today we’re giving you the first listen of the full EP, new “Better” music video premiere, special commentary from Fraser, his track by track rundown, and a huge, insightful list of other artists and records worth a check! Have a great read below!
“‘Luxury Interior‘ was released near the start of lockdown and shortly afterwards MTAT started hosting online live streams featuring artists from their roster as an alternative to the absence of actual gigs, the donated proceeds of which went towards funding a variety of worthwhile causes.”
“I was massively inspired watching these performances and immediately started writing new music in the hope I could also partake in this local community-based display of solidarity and artistic expression, showing that creativity will always prevail in the face of whatever unprecedented circumstances may befall us. I performed these new songs on a live stream of my own and fully intended to do more and get the new material recorded and released asap, but due to a family tragedy everything was put on hold and I didn’t resume work until early 2021.”
“The album means a lot to me for a number of reasons. I suppose the most significant is the fact it was created in the aftermath of what is arguably the darkest period of my life, but rather than promoting negativity it is a message of love, hope, acceptance, appreciation and an overwhelming urge to live the best life you possibly can. This sentiment is in stark contrast to everything I have created previously in my musical ‘career’, and while I wish this change in perspective wasn’t attributed to something as cataclysmic and devestating as the suicide of a loved one, I’m steadfast and determined to move forward with a greater sense of purpose and use my creative voice to try and make the World a better place.”
Here’s another music video for ‘Hold Over Me’, one of the songs taken from Concept Car’s self-titled debut album, which will be available through Make That A Take Records as a download and limited edition cassette from Friday, August 6th:
“The footage was taken during the summer of 2020 where I climbed the Munros of Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire Lèith near Loch Tay.” – comments Fraser.
Track By Track Commentary:
‘Better’ is an upbeat opener and pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album. I’m a child of the 80’s and I tapped into my nostalgia for that era in the creation of these songs with ‘Better’ being a prime example. While I harbour nowhere near the same degree of musical dexterity and/or genius, I cite Van Halen as a colossal influence on Concept Car’s music and I feel the chord structure of this song pays homage to EVH and the music he helped create.
The lyrics talk about the paramount importance of appreciating those who mean the most to you and taking the time to tell them how you feel. Life is horrifically short and you don’t want to leave this mortal coil without stating such things.
“BETTER” MUSIC VIDEO PREMIERE:
I’m 38 years old and I’ve been fortunate enough to forge both friendships and romantic relationships with a number of excellent people in that time. Regrettably, I’ve not always been the best person I could be and this song is an admission of guilt and acknowledges the instances when my selfishness, ignorance and/or stupidity has had a detrimental impact upon those closest to me and the connection I’ve had with these individuals. It’s a song born from a place of sadness and regret, but it’s also a timely reminder of where I’ve gone wrong and highlights the importance of not repeating those mistakes.
The chorus effect on the guitar is quite pronounced here and helps solidify the 80’s vibe of the album. A peer of mine previously commented on it’s similarity to the sound of New Order, whose work I don’t have any real familiarity with, but perhaps it’s a decent comparison to those in the know.
Hold Over Me
This is the first single to be released from the album and it’s one of the songs I’m most proud of. Lyrically it’s presented as a love song of sorts framed within a med-tempo, guitar pop background, but it’s really about living with addiction and the struggle associated with abstaining from whatever your vice happens to be. Addiction is something I’ve lived with throughout my adult life, but thanks to the love of my friends, family and in particular my wonderful girlfriend I honestly feel like I’ve finally turned that metaphorical corner and I refuse to surrender to pointless and self-destructive pursuits that only result in a lesser version of myself.
I’ve made several music videos to accompany some of the songs from the album with ‘Hold Over Me’ being the first to be released. They all consist of footage I’ve captured from my adventures in the Scottish Highlands as ‘Munro Bagging’ has become my new addiction, one that’s infinitely more rewarding and life-affirming! The views I’m afforded in these places are truly stunning and I feel so unbelievably fortunate to live in this part of the World, so even if people don’t like my music hopefully they’ll still find some enjoyment from the beautiful scenes depicted in the videos.
This was the last song to be written for the album. It’s another up-tempo rocker and consists of riffs I’ve had floating around in my idea arsenal for an age, but I finally got round to arranging them for the album and I’m quite happy with the result. I’m certainly no shredding guitar hero, but I’m quite proud of the solo I play on this and the tone I managed to dial in for it.
Thematically it comments on the anxiety I feel when I consider mortality and the gradually accelerating passage of time. This is something I find myself thinking about more and more the older I get and I feel a greater need to become a better person as a result. I want to do right by those I love and I hope I’m afforded enough time to cancel out all the mistakes I made previously. I live in hope.
While I’ve tried to make the album a consistently positive listen throughout, there are moments where negative emotions are acknowledged and allowed to surface, even if it’s just to provide a more balanced perspective. The World is not a perfect place and this song highlights the particular brand of stupidity and ignorance that social media has cultivated in this modern existence, wherein debate and discussion is second to mob mentality and an ever-increasing line of division where nothing gets resolved and the ability to relate becomes further eroded.
‘Idiocy’ is the one song on the album that shares the same nihilistic ideology that was so prevalent in the songs I wrote for Fat Goth, but I guess it’s important to acknowledge that anger and allow it to manifest itself while simultaneously maintaining a level head and not allow it to take over.
Musically it reminds me of the Melvins or maybe Soundgarden’s heavier moments, and I’m quite proud of the big outro section with the synth chords adding a bit of grandeur to proceedings.
My brother took his own life during the summer of 2020 and the album is dedicated to him. I always considered myself extremely fortunate to have lived my life without losing anyone close to me, but needless to say his passing more than made up for that and the utter devastation caused by his absence is a wound that will never heal for all of us who loved him. The World can be an unimaginably cruel and evil place with grave injustices bestowed upon the best of us as they were my brother, and while the heartache and sorrow in this song will always remain, it also acknowledges love that’s ever-lasting and suggests honouring those who are no longer here by living the best existence you possibly can. I’m committed to doing just that and I know I’ll always feel his presence when I’m spending time with those I love, making music, climbing mountains, and doing anything else that makes this life worthwhile.
I would say to anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts to please talk to someone. Death is not the answer and the World is a better place with you in it.
Other Bands and Artists Worth Checking Out:
Laeto were a band from my hometown of Dundee and their music has been a massive influence on me ever since I saw them supporting Idlewild at a local show way back in 1999. I was still at school and learning how to play guitar at the time, but my mind was blown seeing this local band supporting a ‘big’ name and it was pretty much my first introduction into what is commonly known as ‘post rock’ music. They played songs from their debut album, ‘ Make Us Mild’ and it was very much in keeping with early Mogwai and Slint-orientated stuff. I was completely unaccustomed to that sort of thing and didn’t quite know what to make of it, but I was equally fascinated and my friends and I promptly picked up CD copies from the merch stand and gave ourselves an education.
A few years later they released their second record, ‘Zwoa’, which was a massive departure from what they had done previously. Gone were the instrumental, shoe gazey, quiet/loud jams and in came the unironic, fist-pumping, righteous guitar soloing, heavy riffing, 80’s-inspired hard rock/metal action tunes that put a massive smile on my face! This stuff sounded so good live and the band had fun with their presentation during this period, playing in matching sky blue T Shirts with ‘Laeto’ written in the iconic Sega font, white trousers and the obligatory pair of Nike Air Max – super cool!
‘Zwoa’ for many Laeto fans is the quintessential record, although I think my favourite is ‘III’. This record perfectly encapsulates the essence of the two previous albums; the stunt guitar rock of ‘Zwoa’ along with the expansive cinematic approach of ‘Make Us Mild’, but retains its own identity and heads in a somewhat prog rock direction minus the pretentiousness. It’s also the best-sounding Laeto recording and was captured by Robin Sutherland who did the mastering on my own album. Tragically, this was their final recording as drummer, Robbie Cooper passed away in 2014 from a rare form of cancer and the surviving members disbanded.
Laeto did release an EP last year called ‘All Nighter’, which was a recovered recording session from 1998 and harkens back to the post rock vibe found on ‘Make Us Mild’. I’m told there is also a ‘lost’ album recorded between ‘Make Us Mild’ and ‘Zwoa’ that will hopefully see the light of day at some point in the future, although those guys are not too motivated when it comes to such things so I guess fans such as myself will just have to continue waiting patiently.
Kaddish is another Dundee band and a bit of a local institution to many. They play ‘screamo’ music, which for the uninitiated is a form of punk rock music born from the U.S underground hardcore and emo scenes active throughout the 80’s and 90’s. It’s characteristically defined by intense delivery on all fronts with fast, tech-based guitar riffing, blast beats, and as the name suggests, screaming vocals with often politically orientated and socially conscious lyrical themes. It’s an acquired taste and it took me a while to ‘get’ it, but what sets Kaddish apart from many of their peers is the musical inventiveness and their ability to harness the screamo sensibility and take it in other directions. They’ve also been together for almost 20 years now, which is unheard of in the screamo community as most of the bands associated with the genre can barely manage a year before calling it quits!
Kaddish’s debut was a long time coming as they had been together for at least 5 years beforehand and only recorded 2 demo sessions up until that point, both of which are now available as an official release. The songs that make up the debut are very ‘tech’ focused and veer wildly from full ferocity displays to calm, almost ethereal sections with Dom’s guitar virtuosity taking center stage throughout. It’s a visceral listen and certainly one worthy of note, especially for those who have an invested interest in the genre. It’s also the only LP to feature the band as a 4 piece as original singer Mark left not long after the record’s release.
The remaining 3 members decided to continue, which meant writing new material as it wasn’t possible to play and perform the majority of the debut’s songs given the complexity of the guitar parts and the vocals Dom was required to sing over the top. I personally feel this is where Kaddish really started coming into their own as the following 2 LPs, ‘Thick Letters To Friends’ and ‘What World Was Still?’ both have a greater sense of identity and sound that is completely their own. There’s more emphasis on repetition, both in the lyrical and musical sense and an incorporation of prog rock and even jazz sensibilities while still retaining the intensity associated with their debut. They’re great records and I heavily recommend checking them out.
I think the thing I like most about Kaddish is how they represent everything I love about the music scene here in Dundee. I don’t think any other band based here encapsulates the sense of community, the DIY ethic, and sense of solidarity, all of which is evident whenever they play a show in Conroy’s Basement, a local venue run by Make That A Take Records and another local institution in it’s own right. I sincerely hope it’s not too long until lockdown restrictions ease to the point where these shows can recommence and afford those of us involved in this scene to get together once again and enjoy some loud, aggressively positive music in a punk rock basement setting. Such things are life-affirming activities and good food for the soul.
The last band I’d like to draw people’s attention to from my local scene is Stonethrower. They’re one of the more relatively recent additions to the Make That A Take roster and share a number of similarities with the aforementioned Kaddish. They play a brand of post hardcore punk that originates from the same space as screamo, but there’s less aggression with their music and a greater inclusion of indie rock sensibilities and occasional sound collage experimentation. Like Kaddish they originally started off with 4 members and recorded their ‘Swells/Repels’ EP in 2015 before original bassist Avril left, at which point Ross traded six strings for four and they continued working on the material that features on their debut album, ‘Legacies’, released in 2020. It’s a great listen and yet another example of why I feel so fiercely proud of the Dundee scene and it’s formidable artistic output.
What’s more encouraging is the success they’ve had with the fund raising to get the album pressed on vinyl, which is far from being the cheapest physical media option available to musicians operating on our level, not to mention the colossal waiting times for pressing thanks to major labels reissuing their back catalogues in order to capitalise on the vinyl resurgence and the additional expense of import taxes associated with the idiocy of Brexit. I’m delighted Stonethrower and MTAT have successfully pulled this off and come out victorious in the face of such adversity and can’t wait for my copy to arrive. Check the album out, it’s totally great!
10 Records I Get Tremendous Enjoyment From, by CONCEPT CAR
1. Earth – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull
I’m not one for having any favourites as my opinion changes on almost a daily basis, but there are exceptions to that rule and if I was asked to pick an all-time favourite album, it would be this. I think Dylan Carlson is a genius and I adore everything Earth has released over the decades, but I think ‘Bees’ is a particularly remarkable achievement and a truly beautiful, psychedelic meditation in sound. I discovered this album around 10 years ago during a bad point in my life and it soundtracked my recovery, so it has a great deal of sentimentality for me and I always feel comforted whenever I listen to it. I also reckon it’s my favourite album to listen to while driving.
2. Van Halen – 1984
I only came to really appreciate the work of Van Halen around 3/4 years ago. I have no idea why it took me this long, but I got there eventually and I’m continually thrilled whenever I listen to the albums from the first half of their career. I don’t care much for the Sammy Hagar era, although I do think ‘5150’ is a fine listen and should be counted as one of their best offerings, but for me ‘1984’ is most certainly where it’s at! Everything about this record is perfect and encapsulates all aspects of ‘classic rock’ I enjoy most, with the exception of some of the misogynistic lyrical content that mires things a tad. I love the addition of synths and tunes like ‘I’ll Wait’ give the album an edge and show just how much of musical genius EVH truly was. RIP.
3. Traindodge – I Am Forever
Traindodge is a band from Oklahoma City and it’s criminal they’re not more widely known. Andrew Elstner (Dead Now/ex-Torche/Tilts) brought them to my attention and I instantly fell in love with their music. They’ve been releasing material since 1999 and have a number of excellent records to their name, but I think my favourite is ‘I Am Forever’. This album is equal parts 90’s post hardcore and 70’s era prog rock akin to the likes of Rush and Yes, and I find it utterly addictive. This record has such a lush sound and it’s one of the best sequenced albums I can think of, just a wonderful ebb and flow. A truly great band and well worth your time!
4. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Naughty Boys
Yellow Magic Orchestra have been described as the Japanese Kraftwerk and are just as important in terms of harnessing the power and scope of the synthesiser. There is a formidable degree of genius in their music, which was clearly way ahead of its time and offers the modern day listener a retro vision of a technological future. ‘Naughty Boys’ is a joy to listen to with no shortage of catchy, yet highly inventive pop songs with a unique Japanese flare throughout. I have no idea what they’re singing about, nor do I care. Amazing record!
5. Mogwai – Special Moves
Mogwai are one of Scotland’s best musical exports and it pleases me they’ve continually done their own thing for 25 years and made a major success of it. My first introduction to them was ‘Come On Die Young’ back when I was a student in the early 2000’s, and while I never kept up to speed with their remarkable productivity I always enjoyed listening to their music whenever it came in earshot. Years later I witnessed their set at the first Connect Festival in Inveraray, Scotland and I was spellbound with their emotive cinematic tunes blaring out from the open air stage and the stage lights highlighting every raindrop that fell during the performance – it was awesome! They’re one of the best live bands I’ve seen and ‘Special Moves’ is a fine testament to that.
6. Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters have gone on to become one of the biggest bands in the World, which is something my teenage self would never have suspected. I loved the debut album the moment I heard it and I still think it’s a great listen. It shares so much in common with a great deal of Dischord artists like Fugazi and Bluetip along with harbouring a degree of innocence and unpretentiousness, which I really appreciate. It’s a rough and ready, rocking, post hardcore blast, and I vividly remember feeling slightly disappointed and concerned by the high polish of it’s follow up, ‘The Colour and The Shape’. This was further accentuated with ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’ and everything that followed, where each album had one or two enjoyable singles surrounded by quintessential filler and uninspired stadium rock-aspiring fodder. I realise the masses will strongly disagree with me on this, but I know which album I like best and I’m grateful it exists.
7. Louis Cole – Time
Louis Cole is a VERY talented man and his show in Glasgow was the last live performance I saw before COVID and lockdown raised their ugly heads. It was a treat to see regular collaborator, Genevieve Artadi on the bill too and I was thoroughly floored by both sets. ‘Time’ is a fantastic record and takes the best parts of 80’s pop music, the intelligence and complexity of jazz theory, and puts them through a 21st century, neon punk blender to create something truly original and dizzyingly impressive, with a small dash of humour thrown in for good measure. Thundercat has a song called ‘I Love You, Louis Cole’, which is a sentiment I also share.
8. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill
The older I get the more appreciation and love I have for yacht rock, and you can’t talk about yacht rock without mentioning The Dan. There’s no shortage of pure genius in their music and while ‘Aja’ is perhaps their greatest artistic statement, I do enjoy the easily digestible pop aesthetic attached to ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ and the various hits found within. I inherited my father’s vinyl copy and it’s one of the most prized discs in my collection.
9. Pile – Green and Gray
Rick McGuire is one of my favourite songwriters working today and the music of Pile perfectly encapsulates everything I love about noisey, indie guitar-driven rock, but there’s also a great deal of sensitivity in this stuff and the more reflective moments are just as powerful. The melancholy within Rick’s writing is becoming more pronounced with every subsequent release and occasionally it reaches heartbreaking levels. Songs like ‘Hair’, ‘My Employer’ and ‘No Hands’ illustrate this effortlessly. Pile is a particularly great band and if you enjoy the likes of Fugazi, early Weezer, Pixies and Elliott Smith, you should really check out their stuff. Thank me later.
10. Anthéne – Weightless
I love listening to ambient music when I go to sleep as I find it’s the perfect way to relax and ease into a more calm state. As a result I have amassed a sizeable collection of saved albums on my Spotify account to serve this very purpose and this 2019 album from Anthéne is a recent favourite. Vast synth pads feature heavily creating a lush wash of sound, but with the addition of minimal guitar passages subtle melodies are introduced and littered throughout providing a meditative, yet engaging experience for the listener. There’s melancholy here and it can be quite emotive at points, but doesn’t reach the sadness levels found in the likes of latter-era Stars of The Lid. Regardless, it’s a beautiful